Africa

Tunisia arrests lawmaker, TV presenter who called president a traitor

A portrait of Tunisian President Kais Saied is displayed inside a photography shop in Tunis, Tunisia September 23, 2021. REUTERS-Jihed Abidellaoui

Tunisian police on Sunday arrested a member of parliament and a television presenter who have been prominent critics of President Kais Saied since his seizure of power in July, their lawyer said.

The lawyer, Samir Ben Omar, said the military judiciary had ordered the arrests, accusing the pair of “conspiring against state security and insulting the army” after they broadcast a programme on Zaytouna television station.

Aloui Abdellatif is a member of parliament for the conservative religious Karama party and Ameur Ayed is a presenter on Zaytouna. In the programme, they strongly criticised Saied and called him a traitor.

Neither the police nor the army were immediately available for comment.

Saied suspended parliament, lifted the immunity of its members and assumed executive authority in July before saying last month he would ignore most of the constitution and rule by decree for a period of “exceptional measures” with no set end.

His intervention, following years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, was welcomed by many Tunisians but has cast doubt on Tunisia’s democratic gains since the 2011 revolution that ended autocratic rule and triggered the Arab spring.

Saied has said he will not become a dictator and has promised to uphold rights and freedoms. Since July a small number of parliamentarians have been detained on old charges that were activated when their immunity was lifted.

Many other politicians and business leaders have been subjected to travel bans, though Saied said these would only be imposed on people facing judicial summons or warrants.

However, there has been no widespread campaign of arrests so far and the press has been able to continue to publish stories critical of Saied and the authorities.

Most of Tunisia’s political elite have urged him to say how and when he will get out of the crisis and two protests have taken place against his actions over the past two weekends.

On Sunday Saied’s supporters are expected to rally in Tunis to show their backing for his intervention, which they see as necessary to reset a political system that did not respond to the needs of Tunisians.

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